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Chichester Chamber Blog

In My View... The future is flexible working

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Commuters continue to have a raw deal with rail strikes causing delays and, for some, problems getting to work at all.  The decision to drop the Chichester A27 road improvement scheme has also dashed hopes of a solution in the near future and the impact on businesses is immeasurable.

However, the response to these problems by employers and employees is remarkable.  Flexible working and working from home are not new ideas but, borne of necessity, people have been trying out new ways of working and, now they’ve seen the benefits, they’ll most likely continue.

Businesses are re-thinking the way they do things.  With customers and sales a priority, re-organising when, where and how work is done can sometimes be painful, but even simple solutions can contribute to a highly-engaged workforce and improvements in performance and customer service.

Eligible employees have a legal right to request flexible working and savvy employers are taking a positive approach by balancing the needs of the business with those of their staff.  When employees feel they have the trust, freedom and flexibility to work how and where they want, they are likely to be more productive.

Working from home has some obvious benefits.  The first is that you can actually work rather than wasting time travelling (or not travelling if you’re a Southern Rail passenger). People say they are more productive at home, have less distractions and that it’s a less stressful environment.   But even just easing back on the times people need to be in the office can help them plan their work more efficiently.

Flexible working is more than just working at home, it’s about working wherever you need to be.  Technology and social media are clearly important in enabling people to keep in touch and businesses can widen their hiring pool with little or no geographic limits, it’s a great way to find and retain talent.

In conclusion, flexible working makes good business sense and can be a win-win for employers and employees.  It has many benefits, ultimately giving businesses a significant competitive advantage, in a tough economic climate.

Dianne Lambdin, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The Sussex HR Hub

In My View... The A27

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, March 30, 2017

On 22 March, I attended a community stakeholder workshop about the A27 improvements in Chichester as a representative of the Chamber, and a local resident.  It was locally organised by West Sussex County Council, hosted at Chichester College in response to the news that the proposed £28m scheme has been scrapped by transport secretary Chris Grayling because of a lack of local consensus.  The workshop’s purpose was to locally start afresh with the A27 plans.

I’m not surprised the previous scheme was scrapped. The options handed down to Chichester and district by Highways England were all flawed because of the way they were conceived.  Highways England ran the consultation through an appointed non-local agent and effectively drew up the options with them, with minimal local consultation. This meant they were always going to be what Highways England preferred as part of a national infrastructure strategy, rather than a locally conceived and popularly supported plan.  Plus, the options were always going to be about just changing the A27: the clue is in the name.

Whether a future improvement scheme is ever going to be funded remains unclear. What we do know is something needs to be done about improving the infrastructure in and around Chichester, of which the bypass is a major factor

We have a fantastic opportunity to produce a compelling locally-driven and visionary plan that considers all forms of transport. One that works for both locals and through-traffic, now and into the future. It needs to go beyond just the bypass by also considering how to reduce the need for local journeys by car in and around Chichester

At the workshop, there was a remarkable sense of unified local purpose. We will never achieve 100% consensus about any plan.  But instead of going down the same old route of allowing those with the loudest voices who are able to attend forums and workshops to influence direction, to me it has to be a much broader local consensus that should be sought

Life is distracting. Getting a lot of people engaged in local issues is a massive challenge, but by achieving broader local engagement from both businesses and residents, I believe we will produce a more visionary and substantiated plan. One that is based on public representation will more likely inspire decision makers and attract the funding.

This is a call to action. Local businesses and residents alike should get involved.

Email: buildabettera27@westsussex.gov.uk to find out more.

Jason Miller, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and SteadyGo

In My View… All Change for 2017

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, March 02, 2017

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the new Interim Director of Business Development at Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  I’m delighted to step into this role as I’ve recently replaced Helen Reeve who many of you know did an outstanding job as BD but had to step down to the growing demands of her own business, so a huge thanks and best wishes to Helen for 2017.

I have worked with local businesses for some years now, especially from a Training and Skills development angle and really enjoyed the challenge of carrying out meaningful Training Need Analyses to identify what the barriers and issues to growth really were, and how we could work collaboratively to overcome these or steer round the obstacles.

2017 is going to be a year like no other; that is the only thing that we can be entirely certain of.  With so many political changes afoot on the global stage, we need to be able to forge our own future success by working in greater collaboration and synergy.

Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry have already made a great start on this with Chichester College and our joint ‘Chichester Big Breakfast’.  Our first joint event took place in January and proved so popular that it was over-subscribed – a trend that continues, affirming its place and value for our local business community.

Nathan Elvery, Chief Executive of West Sussex County Council gave a thought provoking talk on how our local picture in terms of skills shortages, opinions and burning issues are reflected in the national picture and his commitment to us all working together to find solutions to these problems, something CCCI warmly welcomes.

We have plenty of events and networking opportunities planned for the next few months including joint events with Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.  Details can be found on our website, along with the benefits of becoming a member if you haven’t joined us already.  New events will be published shortly in collaboration with Bognor Regis and Worthing & Adur Chambers of Commerce.

Sue Garman, Interim Business Development Director, Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry

In My View - New Year’s Resolutions…

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, January 26, 2017

As we enter 2017, I am reminded of the annual pressure to commit to a New Year’s resolution and the challenge to find an act if worthy self-improvement... This year, I have decided that I need to find more time to build my personal and professional networks.

My networks are something that I value hugely but there is always the danger of relying on existing contacts and not widening the net. Events are often breakfasts or post work drinks and after juggling school drop offs/collections and the pressures of the day job, it can be easy to make apologies and give them a miss. But I know that the creative juggling pays off and it’s (almost!) always worth the effort.

The Christmas period saw some great opportunities for networking – including carol singing and the compulsory mince pies and mulled wine. As I sit back and reflect on Chamber networking events from 2016, I am reminded of the range and value of our events – everything from our monthly meetings, to ‘behind the scenes’ tours of local businesses and the newly launched curry club. To me, these business events are one of the most valuable uses of my time and I believe there is a very tangible return through meeting like-minded individuals and making connections with a wide range of local people. Whether this leads to direct or indirect business, I often find the mutual support and expertise just as important.

One of the highlights amongst the Chichester Chamber of Commerce events for 2017 is the new ‘Chichester Business Breakfast’. This monthly event is jointly hosted with Chichester College and will provide a friendly, relaxed and informative environment for networking. Each breakfast has a guest speaker and the line-up for 2017 includes Nathan Elvery, Chief Executive of West Sussex County Council, Gary Shipton, Chief Executive of Sussex Newspapers and Alex Williamson, CEO of the Goodwood Estate. 

Maybe a New Year’s resolution that will undoubtedly involve more cooked breakfasts, canapés and wine is not ideal from a health perspective but I believe that ‘your net worth is only as good as your network’. So I’ll sacrifice the waistline and grow the network instead!


Julie Kapsalis, Chair, Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Vice Principal at Chichester College

In My View…. Championing Businesses in Chichester

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry has recently held its AGM in the impressive surroundings of the Novium Museum.  This was a time of reflection on achievements for the year and challenges for the future.  The Chamber exists to bring local businesses together for mutual benefit and as an influencer on business matters with both local and national government and other key stakeholders.  We offer support through training, workshops, networking and expert sessions.

So what have we achieved this year?  Early on the Chamber rebranded itself with a fresh logo and colours and then launched a new Chichester business magazine.  Businesses can advertise to a wide readership which also brings in revenue for the Chamber as well as listing forthcoming events.  So far the magazine has been well received.   New events have also been introduced such as ‘Ask the expert’ and ‘Behind the scenes’.

As the voice of Chichester business we have lobbied Government on the Southern Rail fiasco, asking them to intervene to end the industrial dispute which is having a massive effect on local businesses.  The Chamber was consulted on the options for the A27.  All local businesses struggle with delays due to constant congestion around Chichester and to the East towards Worthing. 

The Chamber with its mission to promote and protect the economic prosperity of its members, also began a new relationship as Routes to Market partner with Business Navigator, the organisation financed through Coast to Capital LEP to provide advice to businesses.  A number of members have benefited from this service.  In pursuit of the same objective, the Chamber is a delivery partner for the University of Chichester Hothouse programme which provides training and support for business start-ups.

For 2017 a key partner in supporting local businesses will be with Chichester Business Improvement District (BID) which is in place for a second term.  It is vital that we all work together to encourage new businesses to relocate to Chichester and support those already here and to build employment and job opportunities for current and future generations.

Shelagh Legrave, Vice-Chair of CCCI and Principal & Chief Executive of Chichester College

In My View... Accessing the right people is key

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, November 03, 2016

The recent Chichester Chamber of Commerce business survey indicated that more could be done to support local business growth, especially through organisations like the Chamber.

This set the brain thinking as I believe that business support is well provided in the District. But if this is the case, what else can be done? 

Perhaps it is an access issue. Local firms may not know what is available and how to access it, so I thought I would very briefly cover this. One of the first places to look is the Business Navigator Service. Funded through Coast to Capital, the Business Navigators will help you to understand your challenges and look for the right provider of a solution for you. And it is free at point of access, to everyone.

Across the District there are numerous other organisations that can help you with your business challenges. The District Council has Business Support Officers, Chichester College runs a large range of courses and has an excellent apprenticeship programme. The University of Chichester runs degree apprenticeships, leadership and management development, student placements and internships.  And of course, there is the Chamber of Commerce that can link up with the support providers.  The Chamber also runs regular training sessions on topics such as LinkedIn and Growth Planning and there is excellent networking opportunities to meet the people who can provide business support.

The Coast to Capital LEP have a range of grants that are available and there are plenty of consultants that will help you to develop your business plan and funding applications, giving you the best chance at accessing business finance.

In my view there is a lot of business support available in the District, but I think that the challenge is knowing it is there, knowing when you need it and knowing the right people who can help you access it.  If you want to chat through what is available do talk to the Business Navigators, (you can usually find them at the monthly Chamber networking) or drop the Chamber an email and they will point all local businesses in the right direction.   

Gareth Sear, CCCI Director and Business Start Up Manager, University of Chichester Business School

In My View... What have the Romans ever done for us?!

Office Chichester Chamber - Tuesday, October 18, 2016

… apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a fresh water system and baths and public order…

And so goes the famous line from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’.

The Roman’s founded Chichester. They built a town on a grid pattern, with the main streets forming a cross. These remain today as North, South, East and West Streets. There were public baths, an amphitheatre for entertainment and, importantly, the Romans made things and traded. They established a marketplace lined with shops and there was local industry with carpenters, blacksmiths, bronze smiths, potters and leather workers.

Chichester has a proud history. From the wool-trade to the railways, from brewing to tanning, and from the cathedral to the canal, as Chichester has flourished and grown through the ages, each era has played its part in producing the rich, varied and interesting streetscape that shapes today’s city centre.

In the second half of the 20th Century, new post-war thinking enabled Chichester to reimagine itself and emerge into a small city fit for the modern age. It brought the Ring Road, the Leisure Centre, the Festival Theatre, the College, the Library, a remodelled railway station, new business estates, new car parks, and the pedestrianisation of North and East Streets.

This investment in our city has continued into the 21st Century with new retail parks, expanded educational establishments and renewed cultural attractions.

Chichester has a proud legacy of renewing its commitment to the city.

At the centre of this is ‘change’.

But why does ‘change’ so often seem to be such an unpopular concept?

Our City has constantly evolved and changed throughout history. In my view, there is no reason to fear change - It should be embraced.

With new ideas being considered for the Southern Gateway area, and a new 20-year Vision for the City Centre being prepared, Chichester can capitalise on the legacy of those who, in the past, have encouraged and enabled Chichester to change and to flourish.

What we do today will be creating tomorrow’s heritage.

But above all, what we do today has the potential to bring a distinctive new edge to the city, enhancing the attractiveness of our city’s assets, and generating an appealing new buzz about the city ensuring people of all ages feel the city is ‘theirs’.

Steve Oates, CCCI Director and Chichester District Council Economic Development Manager

In My View…. Is top talent knocking on your door?

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, September 01, 2016

Every day I see the difficulties businesses face in recruiting.  While the 'skills gap' is often cited as the reason, employers I talk to are more concerned about lack of ambition, drive and commitment among candidates. So it's not just skills but the right attitude that's in short supply.

In West Sussex there are other factors that impact on recruitment, for example, from Worthing to Chichester we lose skilled people due to the lack of high value jobs; while in the digital sector, unless you're in London or Brighton, you've less chance of attracting good candidates.

With our backs to the sea wall, companies on the coast have 50% less catchment; rural areas have lower population and poor transport links; while London attracts commuters from across the district with the promise of high salaries, prestigious brands and careers that are going places.

Offering better salaries, employee benefits and working conditions might help you recruit but won't necessarily mean you'll get the best person for the job and, if they're not the right fit, you'll soon regret hiring them.

The best strategy is to make your business a great place to work - then people really will want to work for you.  This means aligning your culture, reputation and employer brand - often intangible characteristics and qualities that make your business distinctive.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how technologically savvy your business is, how in demand your products are, or how ‘cool’ your brand looks from the outside, if the culture isn’t right, people won’t want to work for you.

Many businesses already know this.  Their culture isn’t an after-thought; it's central to their growth plan and everything they do exemplifies their culture and values.  Their staff are their best ambassadors.

As business leaders we all need to be clear on what we're looking for. When recruiting it's essential to focus, not only on skills, but on attitudes that define our best people. Employees with a positive attitude epitomise our company's desire to be a great place to work and our commitment to recruit only the best talent - which is a great recruiting tool in itself.

Without this approach, recruiting the right people with the right attitudes will tend to be through luck not judgement.  With so much at stake, what's your business doing about it?

Dianne Lambdin, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The Sussex HR Hub 

In My View... the demise of the independent shopkeeper

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, August 04, 2016

When I first started working in Chichester around 25 years ago, one of its distinguishing and really attractive features was the number of independently owned shops in the centre of the city.  There were butchers, fishmongers, green grocers, hardware stores, antique shops and more.  In fact, with a little digging, you could find almost anything you were looking for within easy walking distance of the Cross.

As I walk those same streets today, I feel somewhat saddened to reflect on what has changed over the last quarter century or so.  Gone are so many of those independent shops, forced out by high rents and exorbitant business rates, the rise of the supermarkets and the move towards on line shopping.  Admittedly, if I wanted to buy a mobile phone I would now be spoilt for choice, but how often do I want to do that?   I would also be spoilt for choice if I wanted to eat in a restaurant.  However, I would struggle to find anywhere to eat in the city centre which wasn’t just another branch of a national chain.  Not that the food is bad – some is very good, but I could eat the same food in Birmingham or even Aberdeen!

So is Chichester still the attractive place it was all those years ago?  In short yes – it still boasts its magnificent architecture and its great cathedral, and of course it still has its marvellous geographical location with the sea and the South Downs so close to hand.  But I still miss the independent shops and feel depressed to see yet another women’s clothing shop opening to sell products manufactured on the cheap in Bangladesh or some other far flung place.  Again, you could find the same products in Birmingham or Aberdeen.

What has happened to the shopping landscape in Chichester is no different from what has happened in most towns and cities over this period.  We are all to blame, at least in part, because we are the ones who moved our custom away from them, but the punitive cost of premises and business rates have also played their part.  We have moved from being a nation of shopkeepers to a nation of shoppers – but sadly, mainly in national chains, in supermarkets and on line.

Peter Stevens, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Pure Employment Law

In My View...Brexit and the smaller business

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Much has been published about the impact of Brexit on bigger businesses, with the FTSE 100 acting as the litmus test of economic reaction. But as an owner/director of my own company, supporting smaller businesses around Chichester, I see a very different situation.

The simple fact is the FTSE 100 has already recovered from the ‘sneeze’ of the referendum result. As I write, the index is up on its pre vote level as most FTSE 100 companies repatriate funds from their overseas operations and profit from a devalued pound. Smaller companies whose cash flow stops them from forward buying currency will have lost out as a result of the drop in the exchange rate.

Currency instability is an issue we can all appreciate (as we buy our holiday Euros…!) but there are hidden costs of Brexit. Working with companies that trade in the EU, I know that exporting and importing goods is relatively straight forward at present, but if a similar trade deal cannot be struck, the administration costs of exporting will increase. Multiple invoices for each shipment, goods delayed in customs and higher tariffs are all real risks. These costs will hit the small business first.

One saving grace is the fact that many EU countries need our trade just as much as we need theirs. The same could be said for the thorny subject of immigration and free movement of people, which equally cuts both ways – something the Brexit campaign overlooked. Yes, we may cut EU migration into the UK but in doing so we may restrict the positive contribution EU workers make to our economy and find ourselves subject to immigration controls when we travel.  

As we go about our daily lives, one may be fooled into thinking that it is ‘all change but no change’ but I think the impacts of Brexit will take many months or even years to hit, with smaller businesses feeling the pinch first. Bigger businesses can often afford to delay decisions or rein in planned spend, but the resultant ripple effect will hit the those that live life a little more hand-to-mouth – the SMEs that represent over 99% of all UK businesses and employ over 14 million people.

Nicki Paddy, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Nicki Paddy & Co.


Chichester Business Magazine